In a landmark opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Title VII’s prohibition of employment discrimination based on sex applies to both sexual orientation and gender identity.
On March 27, 2020, the EEOC released a webinar addressing frequently asked employer questions regarding federal antidiscrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), during the COVID-19 pandemic (the “Webinar”). The Webinar reviewed a number of important issues for employers to understand to avoid running afoul of the above-listed statutes during the pandemic. Key takeaways from the Webinar, organized by topic, are summarized below.
Continue Reading EEOC Issues New COVID-19 Guidance For Employers
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the notion that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or transgender status. More than a standard-issue opinion, however, the Fifth Circuit’s holding was a laser-focused rebuke of a widely-publicized district court opinion which held Title VII’s prohibition on sex-discrimination applies to transgender individuals.
Continue Reading Title VII Reversal: Fifth Circuit Holds No Transgender Protections Under Civil Rights Statute
Resolving a circuit split regarding the jurisdictional nature of Title VII’s charge-filing requirement—the statutory requirement that an employee who alleges that he or she has been subjected to unlawful treatment is required to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), or an equivalent state or local agency, prior to bringing suit in court—the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion on June 3, 2019, penned by Justice Ginsburg, holding that “a rule may be mandatory without being jurisdictional, and Title VII’s charge-filing requirement fits that bill.” This decision—which affirms a recent Fifth Circuit decision, is consistent with rulings from the First, Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and D.C. Circuits, but overrules Fourth and Tenth Circuit precedent—has potentially significant implications for unwary employers when defending themselves in a Title VII lawsuit.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules That Employers Can Be Forced To Defend Against Actions Under Title VII Not Properly Brought Before the EEOC
In a landmark ruling, a federal court judge in Texas issued an opinion holding—unequivocally—that Title VII protects transgender individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity. Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Company, No., 4:2017-cv-02188 (S.D.Tex, April 4, 2018). The ruling is the first of its kind in Texas and will likely have a major impact in Texas workplaces. Indeed, recent studies have shown that approximately 430,000 workers in Texas identify either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Of that number, 79% of transgender workers in Texas have reported—either formally or informally—some kind of discrimination in the workplace, including harassment, discriminatory hiring practices, and promotion denials. Texas employers should take note of the recently-issued decision.
Continue Reading Texas Federal Court Rules That Anti-Discrimination Statute Protects Transgender Individuals
In Franchina v. City of Providence, 2018 WL 550511, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1919 (1st Cir., Jan. 25, 2018), the First Circuit offered no sympathy to the City in its appeal of a jury award that found the City’s fire department liable for tormenting a former lieutenant on the basis of her sex. The court’s sentiments were readily apparent from the outset of its opinion, which admittedly “decline[d] to put out flames of the Department’s own making.”
Harassment at the Firehouse
In the underlying trial, the plaintiff testified at length about the workplace harassment she experienced, which began after a superior filed a complaint on her behalf about another firefighter’s sexual misconduct toward her. Following the harassing firefighter’s discipline, the plaintiff was exposed to escalating verbal and physical mistreatment. The plaintiff’s colleagues referred to her in derogatory terms, physically assaulted her, gave her poisoned meals, refused to cooperate in providing emergency care at the peril of civilian lives, and once even flung the blood and brain matter of a suicide victim into her face. Despite awareness of these incidents, the Department failed to intervene. On these facts, the jury awarded the plaintiff front pay in the amount of $545,000 and a separate figure for emotional damages.
Continue Reading Sex + Discrimination = Liability, Says First Circuit
Last week, in Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Title VII authorizes judicial review of the EEOC’s efforts to satisfy its statutory duty to conciliate before filing suit against an employer. In the simplest of terms, Title VII requires that the EEOC try to remedy unlawful employment practices through “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion” before it is permitted to file a lawsuit against the employer.
Continue Reading The Supreme Court Decides Mach Mining LLC vs. EEOC: A “Win” For Employers?